BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – The rough weather that rolled through the area put a damper on an outreach program that focuses on issues important to county veterans.
Paul Carroll, Executive Director of Lee County Commission of Veteran’s Affairs, said turnout at this year’s spring event at the Ivor Fowler Center on the Montrose Riverfront, was the lowest he’s ever had.
“The storms just kept them from coming out,” Carrol said, who’s been serving his position for 13 years.
But the good thing is that he said he thinks the organization is reaching a strong portion of county veterans.
“I think we’re starting to reach saturation. The first years we were getting 50-100, record was 110. This was the lowest amount we’ve ever had because of the storms,” he said.
Carrol said the outreach programs, which are held twice a year, once in the fall and then again in the spring, offer county veterans a chance to come out have some food and talk about issues that are important to them. He said some veterans can’t get to the office during hours for whatever reasons and this gives them a chance to get with the people that can help find answers and solve problems.
“This is community outreach.. a chance for me to get out in the evening to meet with the veterans who aren’t available during the day because they work or whatever. But also to get the word out there that I’m out here.”
The group has a commission of five including Mardi Steffensmeier, George Morgan, George Shields, Pat Fraise, and Vic Conlee, who help give local direction to the program and assist with the outreach programming.
The biggest thing facing veterans now is health care.
“Health care’s always a big issue with our aging veteran population,” he said. Of course we have VA (Veteran’s Administration) health care in Iowa City and outpatient clinics in Ottumwa, Quincy, and Galesburg. The biggest concern is getting them into the system and helping them to apply. I’m a source of information and I answer a lot of questions. I also have a lot of forms to help them apply for whatever they want or need, and the ancillary forms that go with it.”
Carroll has office hours five days a week, Tuesday and Thursday in Keokuk and Monday, Wednesdaym and Friday in Fort Madison. The Keokuk office is located at 727 Main Street, 319-524-7831 and his office in Fort Madison is in the Lee County Building 933 Avenue H. 319-372-5853. He holds office hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.
Carroll encourages veterans and their families to reach out to him with any questions or issues they are having.
“I always tell my vets to come to me with any questions you have. Don’t try to do it on your own. That’s what I’m here for…them and their families.”